No Secret Disciples/Academy Chorus


Sunday morning^

Mike, our pulpit minister has been preaching about the life of Jesus from the Gospels for well over two years now–it has been a wonderful series. Today the scripture text was from John 19 and Mark 15, concerning Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two members of the Sanhedrin, who come asking Pilate for the body of Jesus, after his death on the cross. We don’t know much about Joseph, but the Gospel of John gives us a bit of information on Nicodemus and how he originally came to Jesus at night. He later defends Jesus (sort of) when the ruling council wanted to bring Jesus in for his teachings (John 7), to the point that both men risk the wrath of their own professional associations, to give the Christ a proper burial. You cannot be a secret disciple of Jesus.


Sunday evening^

You may or may not have noticed, but these two sets of notes are in pencil. Generally, I do not care for pencil/graphite drawings in my sketchbooks because it smears so badly. But my pen ran out of ink and I resorted to the golf pencils that are kept in the pews next to the attendance cards. They do give a nice variety of gray tones not possible with ink pens, but I’ll be back to cross hatching next week.

The second drawing isn’t technically sermon notes. This past Sunday evening, the Harding Academy Chorus came and sang for us. Give me Jesus was one of the songs they performed. It inspired me. Music, art and literature are three wondrous gifts that God has given humanity.


Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City

So sickness and exhaustion is setting in. Many in our group are suffering from stomach virus--I am one of them. As of this writing, I’ve slept most of the day (six hours on the bus and another four hours in the hotel) while the rest of the group has gone to visit Toul Sleng-the Khmer Rouge prison, an orphanage and street children program and supper. I did eat a couple of bread rolls and a can of Sprite for lunch.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program: We flew from Ha Noi to Hoi An earlier this week and visited several sites. It was a slower pace and the students got to shop--a favorite activity for this group. While in Hoi An, we visited an organic vegetable village that has been operating for the last 500 years. They showed us how they fertilize with river weed and have large areas of netting to cover the various beds so pesticides are not used. We got to prepare and plant a bed of sweet cabbage.


Here Taylor Kee and Laura Kelly are spreading in river weed in to the sand bed. This will be covered up with more sand and then the young plants transplanted in.


Members of our group transplanting sweet cabbage seedlings.


After traveling to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), we visited the War Remnants Museum that housed captured American weaponry, tanks, ordinance and photographic exhibits of the effects of Agent Orange and napalm and other war devices used during the war with America. I was pretty amazed that it was presented as even-handedly as it was. Of course there was the communist slant, but overall very well done. Then, we visited the Water Puppet Theatre. This is a truly Vietnamese art form that began as rural entertainment in the rice paddies of local villages. A stage was set up over the water with bamboo screens to hide the puppeteers and the puppets entered the stage by rising up from under the water or let through from behind the screen. It was a delightful show. Unfortunately, I only got an image of the empty stage, all the other shots were QuickTime videos and the internet is too slow for me to upload those.


We took in a short Mekong River cruise around four islands. While on the islands we learned how rice paper was made, we had lunch and visited a bee farm, a fresh fruit farm and ended the trip by visiting a coconut candy factory.


Here we are at the bee farm listening to some of the local farmers sing traditional Mekong Delta songs.

The fresh fruit place had a couple of constrictors on site, so we got to hold one.

Fish Massage

This image might require a bit of closer looking. Meagan and I visited a fish pedicure shop across from our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. That massive ball of fish are chewing the dead skin cells off my legs, leg hairs and feet. I don’t like having my feet massaged because it tickles. This was a whole new level of sensation for me--think of it like this: your legs are going to sleep and it is at the point where it feels like thousands of needle pricks all over your legs. That is it. And the weirdest feeling is the fish fighting to eat the dead skin cells from between your toes. I do have nice, soft feet now.

final push

At the moment I am watching a BBC documentary on the filming of the movie The Killing Fields. We watched this film in my humanities class yesterday and today. It has been a sobering conclusion to our study of Cambodia. Of all the places we are going to visit in the next month, Cambodia holds my interest most. It has had such an incredibly sad past. Such a fascinating place and history.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the students and faculty alike are growing very weary of such an intense academic semester. Many are also homesick. We are all supporting each other in order to stay strong until finals are completed next Tuesday. Actually tomorrow is the last day of classes. Thursday and Friday are days we will be camping and hiking on the lake. Saturday and Sunday are the last opportunities for “adventure tourism” here in Queenstown. I should be doing the Nevis Bunge jump this weekend. Then I will catch up with Lauren, my lovely younger daughter. She jumped at the Corinthian Canal in Greece. After Sunday we will be even.

It is difficult being around the world from home, especially when our two daughters are back in Arkansas. Somehow all the luster of travel and eye-opening experiences take on a different hue when you see it within the perspective of the cables that connect us to family in the States. As wonderful as the trip is, we are not home. Unfortunately, once we are back in the United States, as Christians it seems much easier to forget that even there, we are not home. At home we are safe, loved, accepted, cared for and we truly belong. On Earth, whether in Arkansas, New Zealand or Cambodia, home exists in a quasi-broken state, yet at its best points to the ultimate home in Heaven.

Queenstown, NZ-Next to Paradise

100_7319scenic overlook of Queenstown from the trail

Well, it is expensive in Queenstown, NZ. This is the “adventure capital” of New Zealand, and everything is priced to match the reputation. But it is a beautiful place. Queenstown is situated on the southern end of the South Island of New Zealand. It is nestled at the foot of the Remarkables Mountain Range and at a major bend in Lake Wakatipu. Soaring mountains, and a lake that is as deep as the mountains are high. It is quite an amazing place. Oh, yes, the Paradise reference–just outside of town there is a section of one of the national parks called Paradise. Not because it is breathtakingly beautiful (which it is) but it is where the species of paradise ducks live. You can tell a paradise duck because the female head is stark white against a multicolored body, and the male has a black head and it appears to pretty much have a black body until he flies and several brilliant colors come out of hiding on his wings and sides.

We are doing our last half of the academic semester in residence at Queensland Resort College. The director, Hal, mentioned that Queenstown has a lot in common with Aspen, Colorado. They are both beautiful and both expensive. Surveys have shown that even people who backpack into Queenstown expect to spend over $200 per day beyond the cost of food and lodging. What do they spend it on? I’m glad you asked: skiing, snowboarding, jet boating, white water rafting, horseback riding, sky diving, bungi jumping, parasailing, off-roading, zip line, hiking, drinking, visiting Lord of the Rings/Wolverine film locations, panning for gold, more drinking, four wheel drive tours in the surrounding mountains, steamship rides, expensive chocolate, still more drinking, eating really good burgers from Fergburger’s, and last but not least some more drinking.

Seriously, I was taken aback by how much everyone drinks alcohol here. Once you hit 18, you forget what water is. (Don’t even try to ask about iced tea, I did and they laughed.)

I will be bungi jumping from a height of 134 metres on Saturday and doing a 300 metre swing out over a canyon afterwards. I’ll let you know if I survive. Note the British spelling when I refer to measurements in metric?

Here are a few image of the sights we see everyday going to class while others are spending copious amounts on adventure tourism. (My day is coming next weekend!)

view from our apartment building

looking at the harbor from the botanical gardens

it is early spring, everything is in bloom

trees along the Queenstown Hill hiking trail

another section of the trail

overlooking Lake Wakatipu

a cabbage tree near the trail head

Next week I’ll bring some drawings, finally! I’m going through withdrawals as I have not had the time to draw in over a week. Until then…

Last Days of Broadbeach


Okay, my eyes are glazing over. The humanities students are required to turn in their journal three times during the semester: first at the end of our stay in Australia, then at the end of New Zealand and finally in Singapore. The cumulative grade equals half of their total grade for the class. Humanities is about making connections and understanding our common human traits, desires, concerns, etc.

This is day two of grading 39 journals. I have to finish them this afternoon because we leave at 5:30 AM to fly to Christchurch, NZ. It is both rewarding to see individual students get it, but taxing, too, because I am an image guy. I have great respect for English teachers who must read hundreds of papers every semester.

So we leave tomorrow morning. Internet access will go down for us this evening around 10:45 PM (Aussie time). Tomorrow we arrive in New Zealand, which is an additional three hours later than Searcy time, so you add 18 hours for CST.

Couldn’t let a blog through without more pictures. The following are images from our apartment, 13th floor.
A view of part of our living room

Looking out the window to the Pacific Ocean

zoomed in on the same ocean

Through the kitchen window, across our neighbor’s balcony

Okay, so on our “free travel” time, Meagan and I went back to Binna Burra, in Lamington National Park. This is where part of the Gondwalla Australian Rainforest is. I sketched while there and wrote a journal entry. Well, I’ll let you read it.

email me with questions if you can’t read my writing.

This is the lookout area just behind the lodge dining hall. Usually a great view, today just fog and rain (lots of it.)

They have the coolest plants (epiphytes) that attach themselves on the sides of trees and grow without touching the ground, and they are non-parasitic. This particular species of epiphyte is called a staghorn epiphyte.

Shine, Little Glow Worm, Glimmer, Glimmer

This has truly been one amazing day. First, we have been in class for two weeks, so it is time for our four week exams (we have a condensed semester here in Australia.) We’ve spent a lot of time in classes and watching movies (Walkabout, Rabbit Proof Fence and Gallipoli are all very good films related to Australia.)

We’ve been working our way through a video called Everything is Spiritual by Rob Bell in our chapel time. For those unfamiliar with Harding University, we have chapel everyday we are in regular classes. Our group really loves to sing and pray and praise God. The video talks about scientific discoveries and how wonderfully made is the universe. Well, this afternoon we got an up-close look at another amazing example of that fascinating world. We traveled up to Mount Tamborine to see a glow worm cave. We saw it at night, so no cameras allowed. The glow worms are actually the larval stage of an insect life cycle. The larvae spin a silken harness in which they hang from underneath outcroppings of rocks, roots, dirt, etc. They then suspend “fishing lines” of silk webs all around themselves with a sticky mucus on the lines in order to catch other insects to eat. Their tail end lights up and attracts insects (we don’t know why) and they get stuck in the lines.

The walking path to the glow worm cave runs through the rainforest and over a creek. All along the pathway, if you turn off your lights, you can see little green points of light in the forest on the embankments. Some are brighter than others. The brighter lights are emitted by the more mature larvae and the dimmer ones by the younger larvae. This particular insect spends 5-9 months of its life cycle as a larvae. After pupating, it lives as an insect for 2-4 days, just long enough to mate and lay eggs, then both male and female die. Brings new meaning to the phrase “these children will be the death of me!”

Any way, I digress. Once we reached the cave and walked in, we let our eyes adjust to the darkness. The roof and walls of the cave looked almost like a clear night sky with thousands of points of light clustered here and there--some brighter, some dimmer. Quite an amazing sight. We also spotted several kinds of spiders, slugs, a common green tree frog and two eels in the creek. God is good.

I’m off to fix up some biscuit mix. We are having one of the girls apartments over for biscuits and bacon tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM. I discovered that I can make American style biscuits in Australia and they taste great. After that Meagan and I will walk on the beach and head over to a large shopping area to see about purchasing a digeridoo. Until next time…

Wicked @ the Capital


This was a very impressive performance. First, the physical stage and set: the Stage didn’t extend very far out into the audience due to the necessity of having use of the orchestra pit. However, the set design did extend across the entire front of the auditorium. Description: the curtain was a map of the Land of Oz (in a Middle Earth, Lord of the Rings kind of illustration–teh Emerald City at the center.) The sides of the stage to the box seats were covered in old lumber, old pulleys and tied up bunches of rope. These all appeared to be covered in cobwebs and dust. There was also a very large mechanical “paper” dragon suspended above the proscenium. Upon further observation, you can see bits and pieces of cogs and gears (machinery.) The primary element of the physical set was the gears and faces of watches and clocks. (Time is important.) Some video projections were used to further enhance the expressive possibilities of the set. There was an excellent use of lighting and smoke to enhance the storyline.

The sound was fine, the actors clear and in tune and the orchestra strong.

The story is a retelling of Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz,” from the viewpoints of Glenda and Elfa (good and wicked witches.) It begins with a back story of their school days, the meeting of the wizard, disillusion with reality and subsequent playing out of their convictions.

The theme throughout most of the play seems to be the contradiction of what is and what seems to be (Elfa is smart and good/Glenda is shallow and power hungry.) People don’t seem to understand that and assign those roles to the opposite characters. Truth is what we choose to believe and our tragedy is to live out the lies others believe about us. Magic doesn’t really happen, it is all manipulated in a calculated, mechanical way.

Even though Glenda sings about how happiness is getting everything you want–no one gets anything they want because we live the lie, attempting to please others, gain power or both. It is also about how others will begin to believe lies if told often enough.

The constant presence of the clock faces reminds us (as the hour glass did in the original story) that time is running out. It all begs the question, “What choices will you make with the time you have left?” It is a good question. But I feel that the relativity of truth told in the musical belies a solid reason to give much of a thoughtful answer. However, the play did make me ask the question in light of my own belief in our beneficent God–who, by the way is not a man behind a curtain pulling levers and blowing smoke. God never wanted us to be happy–he wants us to be right. Joy flows out of that relationship.


We also visited the Sydney Opera House. A very beautiful and impressive place.

First Morning, Sydney, 2nd Day


So, just like every time I travel overseas, I woke up early this morning. The flight over to Australia doesn’t count, because we all woke up on the plan around 5 AM to eat breakfast before arriving in Sydney. I digress.

So the hotel where we are staying is called the Hyde Park Inn. It is directly across from Hyde Park. The park is a beautiful place of green in a major metropolitan area. In the center of Hyde Park is the ANZAC Memorial, a large art deco building completed in 1932 that is dedicated to the Australian and New Zealand armed servicemen and their sacrifices during the wars of the last two centuries.

Now I will mention the sketch. Six years ago when I couldn’t sleep in Porto Rafti, Greece, I got up, made some coffee and sat out on our apartment balcony. It happened to face east, and I watched the sun rise over a ridge of hills behind Harding’s permanent campus–The Artemis. The sun rose directly in front of our balcony. I was surprised and pleased to find out that our eighth floor balcony at the Hyde Park Inn points exactly the same direction, albeit on the other side of the world and the opposite hemisphere. So I couldn’t resist getting my sketchbook out and doing my first sketch, once again of the beginning of a new (but familiar) adventure. This time, the sun shown through the construction of a new high rise building just on the other side of the lush green of the park. trees

LAX is so not what I expected

Well, we’ve been at LAX waiting on our final (15 hour) leg of our flight to Sydney, Australia, for about five hours. We have about 90 minutes to go. So far only one student got rerouted, but we’ve all managed to get to the Los Angeles airport together. There was an earlier issue with our electronic visas for Australia, but that seems to have been resolved.

We had a family with a two-year old sitting across from us from Memphis to LA, and she wasn’t very pleased with the situation--the whole way here. We felt sorry for her and her parents, because she’s to young to understand why she couldn’t get up and run, why she wasn’t in her room to take a nap, etc. I must confess, there were a few times where I became annoyed, but then I would think why, and it was for purely selfish reasons--that family was probably more miserable than I was. God uses a two-year old to teach and remind me at 34,000 feet.